McCormack Speaks

January 23, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Center for Social Policy: Students Inspiring Optimism

by Susan Crandall, Director, Center for Social Policy

image of college studentsToday, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is said that history repeats itself, but who knew it would do so all at once? Daily living is like walking into a control room where screens are blaring a century worth of news simultaneously: growing income inequality, the rise of Nazism, the threat of nuclear war, massive civil unrest, presidential abuse of power, and so on—with destructive natural disasters occurring in rapid succession.

My secret to finding hope during these times? Working with, and learning from, our Center for Social Policy students, whom I count on for a fresh perspective, insightful analysis, and new directions leading to a much brighter future. Let me introduce you to a few of them:

Vishakha Agarwal is a second year doctoral student in public policy at the McCormack Graduate School, interested in improving access and quality of education for low-income students. One of our Werby interns, she is analyzing data on cliff effects, generating solutions so that increases in earnings from work do not cause low-income families to lose essential benefits like housing and childcare.

Vishakha’s colleague, fellow Werby Intern Jason Wright, is also a second year doctoral student in public policy. He is interested in the politics of poverty and the application of systems thinking to social policy. Jason is identifying policy levers to resolve cliff effects, which we will provide to our On Solid Ground coalition partners, who advocate for housing stability and economic mobility.

Rolando DelVillar supports economic mobility through his work on the Commonwealth Workforce Coalition, which builds the capacity of job training providers across the state to help unemployed workers access better careers. A senior in the College of Management studying leadership and organizational change, Rolando was selected to participate in the Mayor’s Symposium on Housing for a Changing City (where our colleague, Public Policy Professor Michael Johnson will be facilitating). There Rolando will collaborate with UMass Boston students to generate new approaches to improve housing for low-income communities, which will be shared with elected officials.

Bianca Ortiz-Wythe is a second year doctoral student in public policy, researching the creative economy in Roxbury. She’s excited about the project because it amplifies youth voices from the community, which often go unheard when conversations of equitable development arise. Her research interests include rural poverty, the politics of poverty reduction, and gender and ethnic minority issues. She would like to gain experience as a policymaker and run for public office.

Learn more about the Werby Internship program which helps students contribute their gifts to the Center for Social Policy, and to create a better future for all families.


The Center for Social Policy strives to reshape poverty policy by connecting research, evaluation, and communities with lived experiences in Boston and beyond.

January 18, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Office of Public Collaboration, DOC Lead Pilot Project on Prisoner Re-entry Mediation

by the Massachusetts Office for Public Collaboration, McCormack Graduate School

image of handcuffsYou are within weeks of release from detention and looking forward to going home but the closer your release gets the harder it is to get on with your spouse. Visiting is now taken up with fights about living together and you are no longer sure you have a home to go to.

This is a typical scenario for prisoners approaching release and reflects the fact that for many prisoners, going back home may not be as straightforward as they hope. Bridges may have been burned, people on the outside moved on and there is no real understanding of the challenges each of them has faced during incarceration. This is one challenging re-entry area which had not previously been tackled until the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) approached MA Department of Correction (DOC) leadership towards the end of 2015.

Armed with the knowledge that the first 72 hours of release is a significant determinant or risk for re-incarceration, and the importance of building supportive relationships on the outside, MOPC worked closely with Community Mediation Maryland’s Lorig Charkoudian to develop skills and programming based on their successful Prisoner Re-entry Mediation Program in operation since 2007. MOPC invested in specialized training of mediators from its existing network of established statewide Community Mediation Centers and case coordinator staff who will do significant outreach, intake, and case coordination work around cases. Continue Reading →

January 13, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Building Academic Relationships in China to Address Growing Elder Population

This post originally appeared on the Gerontology Institute blog.

Professor Jan Mutchler with student Yu Mengting of Renmin University.

Professor Jan Mutchler with student Yu Mengting of Renmin University.

UMass Boston Gerontology professors Jeffrey Burr and Jan Mutchler delivered presentations at a conference hosted by China’s Remin University and other organizations in December. That was not especially big news.

But their speeches, as well as social events organized around the visit to China, were important just the same. Their trip was the latest of many small steps the Department of Gerontology at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School has taken to build academic relationships in a country with one of the world’s biggest and fastest growing elder populations.

“This initiative is part of our effort to ‘look outward’ beyond the boundaries of the United States when it comes to gerontology research, teaching, and service,” said Burr, the department chair. “Countries in East Asia, like China, provide a wonderful opportunity to learn about the aging process through different cultural, social, and economic lenses.” Continue reading.

January 11, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

UMass Boston Gerontology Contingent Follows Research Projects to South Korea

This post originally appeared in the Gerontology Institute blog written by Steven Syre.

Image of professor and students in South Korea

(L-R) Bon Kim, assistant professor Kyungmin Kim, associate professor Kathrin Boerner, and Yijung Kim at Seoul National University.

A small contingent of UMass Boston Department of Gerontology professors and students were simply following their work wherever it led. In this case, it took them nearly 7,000 miles to South Korea.

The group included Associate Professor Kathrin Boerner and Assistant Professor Kyungmin Kim, as well as PhD candidates Yijung Kim and Bon Kim. They spent two weeks recently in Seoul, working on a series of projects related to South Korea’s aging population and making presentations organized around their visit. Continue reading.

January 9, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Pension Action Center Assists Veteran Denied Pension Vesting Right

This blog originally appeared in the Gerontology Institute blog

by Steven Syre, Gerontology Institute

Pension file folder tabAn Illinois man who reached his normal retirement age in June of this year discovered he had a big pension problem. The company he expected to pay the pension said it didn’t exist.

The man came to the Pension Action Center for help through the Illinois Pension Assistance Project. PAC counselor Susan Hart and attorney Sophie Esquier soon discovered the event that caused their client’s immediate problem had taken place more than 40 years earlier. The event was the Vietnam War.

The client had worked for GTE Automatic Electric from May 1971 to October 1983, a length of time that clearly gave him vesting rights in the company’s pension plan. But during that period, he had temporarily left his job to serve in the military. His period of wartime military service covered more than two years between 1972 and 1974.

Continue reading.

The Gerontology Institute’s Pension Action Center is part of the McCormack Graduate School at UMass Boston. It provides free legal assistance to low- and moderate-income workers, retirees and their survivors in the six New England states and Illinois whose pension benefits have been wrongfully denied. This is one in an occasional series of posts about cases the center pursues on behalf of its clients.

Skip to toolbar